Monday, November 12, 2007

What does your personality have to do with it? Answer below

I'm learning that you don't have to have a column to inject your personality into journalistic writing. And by "learning," I mean that I haven't quite figured it out yet. T-Dot (Talia) wrote this gem and really got me thinking. More on her piece later.

I'm going to refer to a story I wrote about poor field conditions. I want you to read the first two grafs. But I hope you're not drowsy, there, sitting at your desk. It'll put you to sleep early:
The grass fields that Manhasset field hockey coach Steve Sproul remembers playing on at the high school, college and club level in his native Jamaica were rolled before the players took the field. Grounds crews, and sometimes the players themselves, wanted to ensure a flat playing surface for both teams, who dreaded the prospect of a bumpy surface.
Oh, it gets worse.
"The game is meant to be played on rolled turf, a smooth surface," said Sproul, who plays every home game on the school's new FieldTurf artificial surface. The only other option for the team would be to play on a poorly conditioned grass field on the school's grounds.
My goal was to evoke some imagery of these guys -- these athletes about to play a game -- rolling the turf before the game. Who does that? I thought it was great. But I failed miserably. Not to mention there was a huge editing mistake, and a correction ran in the paper the next day.

And there there is Talia, who writes this lead (lede?) in a story about a school district's gravitation toward "green" cleaning products.

WEST WARWICK -- Feel free to take a whiff of Bob Irving’s cleaning bucket.

No, really. Take a whiff.

I don't know that this happened for sure, but I can almost see Talia on bended knee, her nose deep in some citrusy disinfectant, asking all sorts of crazy questions. I also know that she'll try anything once, unaware or perhaps unashamed of how she looks or feels while doing it. That's her personality. Talia crazy, ya'll. And it worked.

Get my drift? The answer to my own question is that your personality can have everything to do with a story. It can turn a boring, but important story about a city council decision to place a streetlight at a dangerous intersection into a masterpiece that gets A1 love.

I imagine this takes a good deal of bravery, and with covering high school sports and all, I have no desire to deal with the repercussions. One little maneuver, misquote or mockery and you've got 40 e-mails in your inbox the next morning. In some ways, I can't let my personality on display on the news pages get me in a load of trouble. But I don't want to bore people either.

And that is what I should be most afraid of.


Posted by Darren Sands at 3:02 AM | link

Read or Post a Comment

Why you think everyone loves Talia so much?

'Cause mama knows, chile. Mama knows. :-)

Posted by Blogger Duck @ 4:17 AM, November 12, 2007 #

Aww, thanks guys. I appreciate the love.

On the lede (and it doesn't matter how you spell it): that actually did happen. I had maybe 15 minutes to interview the custodian before his shift ended and he was showing us the products he used -- which were already in buckets because he'd just used them. He lifts the bucket, holds it at chest level and tells me to smell it. I looked at him funny. Then he insisted. So I smelled it. I just thought the whole scene was funny. It made me chuckle. I figured it would do the same for readers and provide a light touch to a story with a lot of technical mumbo jumbo and legalese.

But don't be fooled: I write boring ledes all the time. Sometimes it happens. You do what you can to make sure it happens less often than not, but sometimes you end up with a dud. Learn from it, keep writing and just remember to have fun. Because if you're having fun writing it, people will probably have fun reading it.

(And I'm not that crazy, Darren.)

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 3:24 PM, November 12, 2007 #
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